Keys to Having an Ethical Business Step 2: Define Your Business

We live in world where information of every kind can travel the globe almost instantaneously.  People can get almost anywhere in the world in less than a day, that is if they don’t like to skype into meetings held in far off places like Tokyo, Moscow, Dubai or London.  All these facts indicate a trend in society and the way in which we should perceive how our businesses should function. There is no doubt that we live in a broad community.  But that broad community isn’t just local, regional or national, it is in fact global.  From this fact, we can begin to define what a business actually is. 

Businesses fit into this global community in unique ways since they are the source of all wealth in the world.  Without profits from businesses, people wouldn’t be able to access items used for their most basic needs, much less those “luxury” items that give people comfort and a sense of peace.  Profit, however, is not the end of business.  No, a business must be extraordinarily cognizant of all people their operations affect.  Therefore, let’s list those people:

Employees are those people who are “on the bus” as Jim Collins would say.  Whether they are the owner, an executive, manager or janitor, they are all working together for some mutual benefit.  While they may act out of individual motivations such as financial gain which improves their quality of life, or happiness taken in producing a beneficial product/service, these benefits would be non-existant if it were not for the cooperation with other employees in the company.

Customers are those people who purchase your business’ products or services for their benefit.  Their motivation is simple.  For some reason they view your product or service as something which will bring them happiness.  Whether it be surgical devices, motor oil, computers, massages or crack cocaine, people purchase these goods/services because they believe that they will bring them happiness, even if it is for a short period of time.  (We’ll talk about the crack addict in step 3)

Investors/Shareholders allow their money to be used by your company for financial gain. The most common type of investor is the type that desires financial gain on their capital from your company’s operations. While some may view these people as greedy, motivations of investors can vary.  And even if the only motivation is financial gain, financial gain is sought for happiness, even wealth can bring unhappiness. (This will also be better explained in step 3)

The greater community are those who are affected by your business operations.  Environmental impact, for example, not only can affect wildlife, but it also may affect the natural aesthetic and air and water quality of the community your company operates in.  Certain business practices may lead to unjust market parameters whereby poor people are coerced into inhuman working conditions, for example. This type of impact can vary depending on the company’s operations, but your company should have policies in place that diminish if not completely abrogate any negative impacts business operations have on the global community (which of course includes the local community).   

So let’s try to boil this information down into a working definition of what a business is. 

A business is a 1. community of workers a.) working for their financial benefit b.) and/or for the benefit the goods/services produced by their combined work gives to their customers  (Both aspects are instrumental the happiness of the employee. )

2.  that produces profit (for investors and owners, which can be used to bring about their happiness and the happiness of others)

3.  while justly treating the local, regional, national and international community, which can be called the global community.


Although some may dislike the word “community”, there is little doubt that this is what a business most resembles.  As we have illustrated here. a business is people working together to make all whom are involved with the business happier – from investors to consumers to owners to business partners to people who have to live near operation sites.  It is important to take account of it all, for the well-being of all human beings, not just those integrally involved with the business.

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